ColumnHow to eat healthy during the holidays? First, let’s rethink what “healthy” means.
At the beginning of the year, we talked about how the No-Diet Diet was your best bet, and as we come to the end of the year I deem it important to talk about eating healthy around the holidays, because just like January is the start of I Have to Find A Way to Eat Healthy Now, December is the start of Oh God How Will I Survive All This Eating and Temptation? season.
Of course, I could give you a 100 Holiday Foods Never to Touch Ever or a Eat Only These 53 Holiday Foods and You’ll Feel Great list, but we all know those won’t help you for a second. If someone suggests you try their miraculous holiday diet, JUST SAY NO. Diets don’t work, healthy lifestyles do.
How to eat healthy? First of we need to think about what we mean by “healthy.” I am a big believer in the fact that if you’re putting your body through so much stress because you’ve committed strictly cutting certain foods out, you might miss out on the larger physical and emotional benefits of enjoying the holiday spirit. A little indulgence now and then never hurt anyone. Being healthy around the holidays is just as much about enjoying the people around you as it is about the food in front of you. So don’t let an extra holiday cookie get in the way between you and having a good time.
In my family we have an expression: it’s not what you eat between Christmas and New Years that matters, it’s what you eat between New Years and Christmas. Now, assuming that you are usually a fairly healthy, well-balanced individual, a few extra slices of fruitcake during holiday time aren’t going to put you over the edge.
At this point you’re thinking, “ok, ok, but I want a list of tips!” Well, here you go. Your official How to Eat Healthy, Not Freak Out and Still Have Fun During the Holidays guide.
1. Eat in balance
Eating healthy is about balance. It’s about knowing your limits. It’s about letting yourself enjoy food as much as it is choosing food that’s good for you. Ok, so you overdosed on bubbles and chocolate truffles last night, that’s fine! Maybe just eat some sautéed greens for lunch.
2. Bake your own treats
Seriously, this is probably the best thing that you can do for yourself. When you make your own food, you have control over the ingredients, and there won’t be anything weird like trans fat or carrageenan lurking around.
3. Let those fruits and vegetables shine
I think the one major faux pas of holiday cooking is that we douse some of the best seasonal fruits and vegetables in the nastiest of stuff. I mean seriously, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top? Ingredients like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and apples are sweet on their own; you don’t have to add a lot to make them taste good. Cut down on the extra sweeteners and sauces and let the produce speak for itself.
4. Avoid the pressure of “having” to serve certain things
So you’re not going to put a Christmas ham on the table. THAT’S OK. Ultimately, enjoying the holidays is about spending time with people we love, and food is merely a vehicle to do so. Make the classics if you want to, but don’t be afraid to experiment and do something a little different. Change is as good as a holiday as they say.
5. Everything in moderation
We all know this, and yet, so often we get so concerned about extremes. “I am cutting out sugar this Christmas!” “I’ll only eat cookies on Sundays!” For those of us that don’t have debilitating food allergies, live a little. And as Oscar Wilde once said, “everything in moderation, including moderation.”
6. Oh wait, not everything in moderation
High fructose corn syrup candies and processed chips? Nope, get rid of them. Even at holiday time.
7. Get exercise
You hate to hear this, but it’s true. Stay active. Drink water. Take care of your body, there’s no need to turn into a slob. That being said: if you need to skip that run because you need to treat yourself to a morning of sleeping in, that’s fine too.
8. Eat, laugh, love
Those three words were written by a friend recently and I couldn’t agree more. What’s great about this time of year is that you’re encouraged to celebrate – every single day if you want to. Throw a party, gather together with friends, have fun. Don’t let your strict requirements about eating get in the way of that. Otherwise: what’s the point?
There you have it. Now, go attack this holiday season with full force!
Related on EcoSalon
This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Image: Markus spiske